Archana Rajender Hegde
Archana Hegde’s village in the rural Uttara Kannada district is a major trading centre for areca nuts. Many villagers live in abject poverty, working as daily wage labourers in the nut farms for the six-month production cycle. In the off-season, it is common for the men to migrate to cities in search of other jobs, leaving the women behind to look after their children with no source of income. Archana hoped to create change and break the cycle of poverty. During a temple visit, Archana saw food served effectively in leaf bowls made from the areca plant. She recognised that the areca plant was an excellent substitute for plastic products and an efficient way to recycle the agro waste in her village. After careful research, Archana was convinced that a small business where she and her co-villagers could easily mould plates, bowls and cups from the areca leaves, would be successful in generating crucial income. Excited, Archana decided to generate capital for this but did not have any credibility to secure a loan. After numerous presentations, Be! Fund- IIM Bangalore’s rural development cell, agreed to invest in her innovative business idea. Within two months of starting her new enterprise, Archana has created jobs for 85 women and increased income for 50 farmers.
Main Story: Her idea to generate areca leaf waste by setting up Rashida Organic Products Manufacturing Enterprise changed the lives of everyone in the village, including herself. The use of plastic cups, plates and bowls was popular in festivals and celebrations across Karnataka until the State Government banned them. The reason being that plastic is a notorious pollutant affecting soil fertility and the environment. This presented a huge market opportunity for Archana. To date, more than 200,000 Rashida Organic plates and bowls have replaced as many plastic plates and bowls. These women who include daily wageworkers, students and homemakers now earn between Rs.500 and 800 per month to help their families survive and supplement their husbands’ small marginal farming income.
Quote:“As a woman, I am proud that I can run a house and also run a business simultaneously and successfully. I am also proud that as an entrepreneur, I am inspiring other women to becoming entrepreneurs and that my 8-year-old daughter considers me as her role model.”